Late one day, at the end of the week, I stood looking out at the city of Birminham through the windows of my 11th floor office. The view was amazing as darkness descended and thousands of lights gave the appearance of a magical world filled with excitement and promise. For someone. Not me. I, however, only felt the exhaustion of a week of crisis, turmoil and problem solving. In other words, I was spent.
I had been embroiled in so many meetings, case staffing and community projects, I hadn’t even started looking at emails for the day. Opening up my mail folder I winced to see 300 emails waiting for me. With a resolute sigh, I scanned them to see if any were emergent as I would hit those first.. I stopped short when I saw an email from the agency stock clerk with no subject line. I don’t normally get emails from him as he reports to the Assistant Director of Building Operations. I was curious. I liked this worker. He had been with the agency long before I came and was a true asset to us, as well as a very pleasant man. I wondered if there was a supply shortage or some other major issues he felt I should know. The email read:
Merry Christmas, Angela. You are the best director we have ever had.
I froze. The room got warmer, I could feel my eyes water and I smiled. Then I rose from my chair, grabbed my purse and went home.
Social Workers: Do you feel sometimes that you are low man on the totum pole? Do you take little satisfaction in your accomplishments because you think as a small fish in a big pond your contributions don’t matter? Then let’s examine that belief with real life examples and some real talk.
As Director, I will not diminish the complexities, frustrations and stress that comes with running a large agency.
Our vision reflects 6 Ps:
Passion for serving others
Protection for children and vulnerable adults
Provision of resources and services
Practice that reflects our belief that all humans have dignity and worth
Permanency for all children in out of home care
Proficiency at improving and maintaining our skills for progress.
When I reflect on this mission, I realize that the most powerful person in the achievement of these goals is you: the line worker.
You are the one reaching out to those in crisis, listening to their trauma and offering support. You are the ones holding the babies born addicted to drugs as they scream out their pain and anger to the world. You are the ones who provide resources to those who cannot feed their own family. You are the ones who help a family navigate the road to change.
When you feel insignificant in your struggle to achieve all that is laid on your shoulders, look in the mirror and tell yourself “I am standing the gap between hope and hopelessness. I am important!”
we are here to support you, provide ongoing training, share of our own experiences and look at Big Picture Strategies. But all the directing in the world will not matter to the mother wanting to recover from addiction to regain her children. You are the only rock she can count on.
And you, Joe, with your little email, can touch a director’s heart and bring insight into her priorities.
When it comes to bringing about real change you are not the least of these my social workers.
You are giants!